Court orders Switzerland to post $14 million bond over bunkering case
The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Hamburg Germany, has issued an order to have Switzerland post a US $14 million bond to Nigeria for the release of bunker tanker M/T San Padre Pio, its cargo, the Master and three officers from Nigerian waters.
The Swiss-flagged 7,616 dwt bunker tanker was arrested by the Nigerian navy on 23 January last year for operating in Nigerian waters without any license. The vessel and her crew were subsequently charged for illegally dealing with petroleum products and forgery at the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt Division.
Switzerland had on May this year, challenged Nigeria’s enforcement actions by instituting arbitral proceedings under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Director, Legal Service, Nigeria Navy, Commodore Jamila Malafa, who disclosed this yesterday in Abuja while addressing members of the standing committee on the implementation of a harmonized standard operating procedure (SOP) on arrest, detention and prosecution of vessels and persons in Nigeria’s maritime environment.
She said the tribunal delivered the important ruling in favour of Nigeria in an order on provisional measures announced on July 6, 2019 in the ‘M/T San Padre Pio’ case (Switzerland V. Nigeria).
Malafa noted that in its Order, the Tribunal rejected Switzerland’s request that the prosecutions be suspended, adding that it conditioned the release of the vessel and the criminal defendants upon Switzerland’s posting of a bond in the amount of US$14 million, and on Switzerland’s unequivocal assurances, in the form of an undertaking binding under international law, that they would return to Nigeria to face criminal prosecution should Nigeria prevail in the arbitral proceedings.
“Switzerland and Nigeria shall refrain from taking any action which might aggregate or extend the dispute submitted to the annex VIO Arbitral Tribunal.
Speaking further, she stressed the need for the Nigerian Navy to liaise with all other relevant stakeholders to ensure that cases involving arrested vessels are charged to court timely and matter dispensed with speedily.